KNIK — On Wednesday, veterinarians crouched over sled dog after sled dog in Knik, performing mandatory checks on the canine athletes racing in this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
The vet checks came after weeks of interactions between veterinarians and sled dogs leading up to the race. All of the dogs had already had their blood analyzed and their heart monitored.
The data from individual dogs is compared relative to the rest of the team, head vet Stuart Nelson said. That way, he can determine if one dog has a muscle injury, or is in poorer shape than the rest of the team. Through that process, about 20 are weeded out of the field of more than 1,000 each year, Nelson said.
Wednesday was also a chance to re-draw blood samples if the vets saw something they wanted to double-check in an earlier screening. Something as benign as a big meal before the blood draw could inflate certain levels, so the vets might want to get a second sample to be safe, Nelson said.
The main reason for vet checks is to give a physical examination of each of the dogs, said Nelson.